Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Desolation Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Challenging. Start early in the day. Expect to lose the trail several times and backtrack. Be cautious when heading back down, as it is easy to get off trail and onto a steep ledge, ... then difficult getting back on trail.

backpacking
1 day ago

If you aren’t afraid to take a couple knee-deep steps into snow, keep going to Lake Aloha. The last 1.5-2 miles is snow, but I did it in my trail running shoes. The trail is well-marked from many hikers making this trek. The lake is frozen but beautiful!

Fantastic views. Very busy with a lot of dogs. Wonderful hike.

hiking
12 days ago

Started today at lower Echo Lake, with intentions of Aloha and back. Made it to about Tamarack and had to turn around. Trail is very Wet, which not a problem, some snowpack still but hard enough to walk across. Got to just pass Tamarack turn off and stepped into some snow and fell knee deep. Tons of snowmelt, but still an awesome hike! SO close to being ready! Saw about 10 other hikers out. Parking lot was clear enough, even cars.

Solitude seekers may already be second-guessing themselves when they pull up to the Velma-Eagle Lakes parking lot, often bloated with drivers frantically looking for a spot, international visitors, and idle North Face sportswear types posing for photos at the sign (oh yeah, I totally just went there). Note: You are allowed to park along the road in some spots. $5.00 fee needed for day-use during the on-season.

Appearances can be deceiving, fortunately. The hassle to find a parking spot and navigate crowds early on is well worth the hike. The amount of people will drastically go down after you cross a bridge which is about 0.5 miles along the trail. (Let's say 100 visitors are on the entire trail. After the bridge it will be 20. Then after a full mile maybe 10). The reason for this is that the elevation gain is a butt buster right at the start, though a well-marked trail and stone steps help accommodate.

I did this when there was lots of snow and completing the full loop is a challenge, largely because the trail is often buried. I diverged, half intentionally, and ascended a ridge a few miles in, with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake at the top. Others happened to be up there as well, and they seemed to be improvising their navigation too.

Give yourself plenty of time in the day if you intend to do the whole loop. Plan carefully before venturing off into the snow (Nov-May).

Had a one night camp in Lake of The Woods. The lake es beautiful offering many great views of Pyramid Peak and greenery.

Echo Lake to Lake Aloha to Gilmore Lake to Dick’s Lake, exit Bayview Trail. This was a great summer trip with adults and twelve-thirteen year olds. Beautiful lakes, marmots, pika, osprey, and flowers in August.

Beautiful and a butt kicker! We did this as a point to point hike starting out at Echo Lakes parking lot and ending at Inspiration Point overlooking Emerald Bay (via the PCT/TRT and Granite Lakes TR).
The early morning start of the beautiful sunny day was clear but cold - my beanie and gloves came in handy!
The trail starts out on granite following along the Echo Lakes (where You'll see many private homes along the shoreline), then the trail takes you in/out of woods at Woods Lk and Lk Aloha. You then pass more beautiful pines, some wildflowers and a couple more alpine lakes (Heather and Susie Lks). I would suggest filtering water at Susie Lk, as the trail actually passes right next to it and Gilmore lake would take you .5 mile up and off trail. The next few miles are up, up, up and over Dicks Pass. Make sure to bring your camera!...and your trekking poles - as the descent from the 9,400' Pass will be hard on your knees.

Did this yesterday, 2/18/2018. The trail starts off slow along the stream. Then at the base of the waterfall there's not much of a trail, go your own way, It's a rock scramble up the side of the waterfall. Not too difficult, but very fun. Then you reach the first lake/pond. There was snow up at this elevation. Great views of the valley, Pyramid Peak, and Ralston Peak.

The way down though... huge pain scrambling down the waterfall. I got stuck twice where I had to then scramble back up about 100' the come down a different route. I tried coming down literally along the waterfall. Bad idea. I suggest going over to the waterfall for some photos, but then go lateral back away from the waterfall. Dont try going down the waterfall.

Great lil hike, brought my 8 year old son on his first two nighter backpacking trip and granted some of the uphill realllyy wore on him, I prepared ahead and planned to carry his tiny lil backpack for him for parts of the way. Dogs allowed, but definitely no fires allowed. Was out there for a meteor shower and while I didn’t see anything, it was beautiful at night

Decent trail a lot of ice in December
Would be great in spring

Beautiful!

backpacking
5 months ago

Beautiful hike along the PCT. Unfortunately the trail right before Tamarack Lake was covered in about 2 feet of snow. Not knowing this, we only had hiking boots. Ended up camping the night at Tamarack Lake which was just as gorgeous and isolated.

hiking
5 months ago

Beautiful! Well worth it. Definitely going again.

Love this trail. Get a camping permit and stay the night to really enjoy this lake.

Route Description:
Park your car in the Ralston Peak Trail parking lot. We shall return via this path.
Walk on US 50 (away from South Lake Tahoe which is the downhill direction. You will pass the Pyramid Creek Trail head (You can choose to fill up the wilderness permit here).
Keep walking till you hit the Pyramid Peak - Rocky Canyon Trail trail head. There is no trail head here! Its marked as a big rock with faded white paint blotched on it. If you cross a stream then you have missed it. Check on alltrails.com on details on how to spot the trail head.
Scramble up the rocks - about 15 feet and you should be on the trail.
This trail is relatively easy to follow and its a use trail. For the first mile the stream will be on your left. After a mile the trail will cross the stream and then the stream will be on your right. The trail parallels this stream till there is no trace of it. At this point it will follow the lowest point in the topo map (valley) as it progresses upward leaving you to some boulders to traverse. There are cairns here to guide you, if need be. You will then have to scramble up the boulders to get to Pyramid Peak.
There is no trail or signs from this point. You just walk the ridge to the next two peaks - Mount Agassiz and Price Peak. Note that one side might be less sloped than the other. If I remember correctly, the right side had sheer drops, whereas the left side was more gentle. Hence, pick an easier side to traverse it.
After Price Peak, descend down to Mosquito pass which runs between Clyde Lake on the left and Lake Aloha to the right.
Next climb up Jacks Peak and walk the ridge to Dicks Peak.
From Dicks Peak there is a use trail with cairns in boulder areas to guide you to the PCT.
Take the PCT all the way till you hit the Ralston Peak trail.
Take the Ralston Peak trail all the way to the trail head and back to the car.

Note: Roughly 10 miles is off trail and Class 2/Class 3 and hence progress is much slower. Time is well spent in route finding to get on top of the peaks which involve a bit of scrambling.
There is no fee to park at the Ralston Peak trail head. A free wilderness permit is required for the day hike. You can get one at the Pacific Ranger District Ranger station in Pollock Pines. Alternatively you can fill the wilderness permits up in any major trail head. The Ralston Peak trail head is not considered major, as I did not see any place to self issue a wilderness permit. On the other hand, the Pyramid Creek trail head might have them.
Carry gloves for the rock scrambling.

backpacking
6 months ago

Definitely a must do trail. Although late October there wasn't much of the lake left. It had snowed two days before which made the hike beautiful. The Sunny Trail along echo Lakes in the partially Snow covered mount Ralston across the other side was incredible. The hike is a little rocky in areas stiff sold shoes are nice. Because of the snow and warm weather it made for some soggy trail, I'd advise waterproof boots for the hike. Nice warm days but in the 20s at night. Brrrrr

One of the most beautiful Lakes in Desolation. A favorite destination. Climb the peak at the north end of the lake with the lone pine tree on top for a spectacular view of Lake Aloha and Lake of the Woods.

Trail was very nice but I lost my ray-Bans on the way down :(

backpacking
7 months ago

Beautiful hike, i did a backpacking trip in desolation and stopped here one of the nights. Flowers were blooming and very lush this time of year. Also stopped at zatela and four q.

Love the beautiful views and exhilarating hike!

7 months ago

Absolutely gorgeous!

Very beautiful views, crystalclear lakes, nice nature. The climb takes long (3h with little breaks) for a non-experienced hiker. The descent is very steap and took us 1h, because we were in a hurry due to the sunset.
We only made the first loop, which apparentely is the harder one.
Only critical point: the last 20min along the street. This is not nice and kind of dangerous.
Recommendation: start towards eagle lake - very nice climb, I guess nicer than towards granite lake.

hiking
7 months ago

Absolutely amazing! Beautiful scenery, dog friendly, multiple lakes to hike to! The parking at echo lake is packed so show up early! We encountered at lot of other hikers along the trail, but once we reached Lake Aloha we basically had the lake to ourselves! Would definitely do this hike again :)

One of the best hikes I did near Tahoe area. If you are doing the loop just as AllTrails, make sure you plan early. This one can be a long hike with so many scenic points that one day feels to be on a tight schedule. I did the loop starting from Bayview trail and ending at Eagle creek trailhead.
If you are climbing from Eagle falls side, be aware that its somewhat steep compared to Granite Lake side. Rest assured, the views at Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake make up very much for the effort. Would like to plan a backpacking trip next year just before snow completely melts away. Definitely one of the top hikes near South Lake Tahoe.

Fantastic views. Did it just after the first snow. A bit cool but a wonderful backpacking trip with my daughter.

Went up via Glen Alpine, great little hike. Was surprised to see so much water still, the falls were running strong! Here's to another great winter!

Let me start off that finding the beginning of this trail is a huge pain! So to help go to the right of the first hill. After that, this trail was nothing but fun! Once you get to the base of the falls there are multiple ways up, just pick your own adventure. Can't wait to go farther next time.

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked here from Aloha Lake - ~10 mi round trip. Steep climb up to the lake, but lovely little lunch spot. Had hoped to summit to Mt Tallac but had to turn back due to the time. Plenty of spots to camp around if you get up here!

backpacking
7 months ago

The hikes in & out each took us ~3.5 hours with our heavy packs - similar to others' reports, my phone reported 5.7 miles in but 7.7 miles out. Unclear precisely how far it is. While many folks seem to report too many campers around Aloha, we couldn't see any other camps from our spot and only occasionally saw people walking around the lake. Was a great (chilly at night time!) retreat for the weekend. Great spot to jump off to other parts of the PCT or Desolation Wilderness as well - we took a day hike up to Gilmore Lake. Trails are all very clearly marked, though tiring on the ankles & hips as much of it is loose rock.

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